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SMHS Principal Reports Graffiti Threat (Update)

(Update 10-16 5:30 pm). Richard Rundhaug, acting principal of San Marcos High School, informed parents this afternoon that the graffiti mentioning a school shooting, found Monday, "is not a credible threat" to students of the school.

Classes and activities this week, including a student-sponsored campaign forum with the candidates for SBUSD board on Thursday night, will continue as scheduled, he said.

However, Rundhaug also said in an email to parents, the school will "make modifications to our campus security protocols," following the threat. For safety reasons, he did not specify what these would be).

Pick up 10-15 report. Parents of San Marcos High School students on Monday received an official email that reported the discovery of “threatening graffiti…referencing a school shooting” later this week.

“At this time, we do not have any information that validates this threat,” acting principal Richard Rundhaug told parents in the email, which listed steps being taken “to keep students safe and families informed.”

“While we acknowledge that the graffiti message could be a student seeking attention during finals week, our administrative team is taking this seriously,” Rundhaug wrote. He said the school would remain open:

Again, while the validity of this threat has not yet been determined, in consultation with the Santa Barbara Sheriff's Office, San Marcos High School will remain open this week. Threats of school violence are disruptive to students, staff and families and they also take away time from instructional teaching and learning.

What happened before. Discovered by a student in a boy’s restroom, the unverified threat surfaces anew the issue of school safety at San Marcos.

It follows a long controversy that began last winter, when male students were found participating in an online chat room, where one described how girl students could be killed with a musket and bayonet; another student who later offered a list of more than a dozen girls who could be killed, was recently convicted of “making a terrorist threat,” according to Keith Hamm’s reporting in the Independent, a charge that was reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor.

The chat room incident, and the district’s handling of it, set off months of conflict, after four of five school board members backed Superintendent Cary Matsuoka’s move to remove former principal Ed Behrens from his post. A group of angry parents next organized an ad hoc political group that is actively involved in the current school board race.

What's being done. The graffiti made reference to a shooting on Thursday, according to the email sent to parents. Among other things, San Marcos students have organized a campaign forum for school board candidates at the school that evening.

Rundhaug's 300-word communication, sent via the district's ParentSquare platform, clearly was aimed at getting the facts of the matter out quickly, and assuring parents that everything was being done that could be. His email said these steps were taken:

  • Deployed school, district, and law enforcement resources to immediately identify student(s) involved, determine if any information can validate the threat, and keep students safe and families informed.

  • Our School Resource Deputy, Jaycee Hunter, will have increased patrols of the campus this week.

  • Anyone with more information is requested to please contact the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office at (805) 683-2724. To leave an anonymous tip, please call (805) 681-4171 or go to

Students and families are also able to report information anonymously on our STOPit application,, use code: smhsroyals

Rundhaug also said he had “requested increased mental health support for students.”

A spokesperson for SBUSD did not return a call seeking more information about the graffiti incident.


Images: Richard Rundhaug; frame grab of the Indy reporting on the chat room incident; San Marcos High School theater.

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